This time, things feel a little different.
I’m referring to the recent announcement that this fall, DC Comics will be rebooting their entire line- the currently available details are at the previous link for those that want to know the skinny.
As a long time (and currently apathetic & burned out) comic book fan… I understand the decision, and since the "universe rebooting” event hasn’t ended yet, I find myself throwing my hands up in disgust at the blatancy of it all. Things like this have happened before, but this particular event (due to the various news stories) seems to be sweeping everything under the rug with no ties to currently established continuity whatsoever… until DC says otherwise, that is. All things considered, due to the language used in the story above (save for a mention about current Green Lantern events carrying over somehow), this is the end of current shindig as comic fans know it.
We’ve been here before.
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was the first big DC event to throw the baby out with the bathwater and completely retool everything in order to start anew- in the span of twelve issues, it took care of all of the continuity woes (separate Earths! Different versions of characters! The Flash! Supergirl! ALL GONE!) and gave creators the chance to remake the DC Universe into something that wasn’t bogged down with decades of continuity.
Unfortunately, a new continuity gives birth to even more problems… and with that, there was another attempt to clean things up, kill off some characters, make some new ones, and head in a new direction.
NINE YEARS after the first CRISIS, ZERO HOUR happened. Things had been all wimbly nimbly character wise- Hal Jordan, the former Green Lantern, had gone crazy and wiped out the Green Lantern Corps, becoming a villain known as Parallax in the process, and he was now using his great power to destroy the DC Universe. In the course of these events, more things were retconned out of existence (Hey, Batman? Guess what? You never caught your parents’ killer! Ooooh, I bet you’re gonna be a dick later on this decade!), titles were outright cancelled (goodbye, L.E.G.I.O.N. and Justice League International), and some characters were even more screwed up than before (OH HAI HAWKMAN). And, of course, in order to take care of Hal Jordan’s little problem, it was time for another event to send him on his way. You can’t have a former hero running around as a villain forever, can you?
In FINAL NIGHT, an alien crashes to Earth and warns of the coming of the Sun-Eater. Shock of all shocks, it was coming to consume the Sun (yes, the planet), and everyone banded together (or attempted to… hi, Lex Luthor!) to stop the menace. In the end, it was Hal Jordan who saved the planet at the cost of his life, redeeming himself in the process… and the characters moved on. Kyle Rayner, the current Green Lantern of the time, really began to come into his own, and in time the Justice League reformed with the big heroes taking full charge.
Things seemed okay, all things considered… until years later.
Someone said the ‘C’ word again.
IDENTITY CRISIS planted the first seeds that some more change was afoot. Written by Brad Meltzer, it was a somewhat controversial storyline in which Sue Dibny, the Elongated Man’s wife, is murdered... and things only get even more cloudy from there. While the story itself is a murder mystery, it becomes a nice little character piece that shows just how far heroes will go to keep their loved ones safe, and just how far their loved ones will go to keep them close. Uncharacteristically dark for DC at the time, it was a definite shift in the brand’s storytelling (i.e. DARK AS FUCK), and set the stage for CRISIS PART TWO: THIS TIME, WE’LL CALL IT INFINITE CRISIS.
Enter INFINITE CRISIS. Everything and its’ brother’s sister’s mother’s grandfather started coming to a head after IDENTITY CRISIS- Batman became even more of a dick, Wonder Woman ended up killing Maxwell Lord (longtime Justice League International fixture turned villain because of… something.), and Superman was… Superman. This event was considered the official sequel to CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, and involved the survivors of that event (including the original Superman that debuted in 1938) interacting with the current superheroes during the time period…
And it was a fan’s dream. INFINITE CRISIS was an acknowledgement to the past of the DC Universe as well as a culmination of said universe’s present. Everything had been building to these events of these seven issues- callbacks to even more continuity issues (i.e. Power Girl’s origins) were taken care of. I mean, even the unthinkable happened- the original Superman DIED.
And that was it. No more CRISIS..ES. After the Big Three (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) collected themselves, the DC Universe was set to-
OH COME ON!
FINAL CRISIS was touted as being the end of the”modernly-conceptualized” CRISIS trilogy- and for some, it was a haphazard mess that was buoyed by too many ancillary series’- while there were moments in the main series’ seven issues that more than delivered, fans didn’t seem to take to the events as much as they were expected to. In short, it all built to this moment:
As far as the characters of the DC Universe were concerned, he did. Meanwhile, storywise- Batman was alive and well, shunting through time in order to make his way back to the floating present time that is (or was) the DC Universe.
By and large, that was it for the big-
Okay, zombies? Nice- I can- WAIT, WHAT?! Okay, that happened while Batman was dead and everyone was still coming to grips with that, and it linked with INFINITE CRISIS, and everyone faced their pasts, and… wait, a follow-up to a zombie story?!
Okay, so that’s fallout from everything that’s happened since INFINITE CRISIS- okay, okay, I can dig thi-
And this is it. FLASHPOINT. This is the event that leads to the reboot of the DC Universe. Since we don’t know how it ends (but we know that all the current series end with the end of this particular miniseries), it’s unknown if the current versions of the DC characters will get a sendoff like…
…and I don’t think they will. If it’s a total sweep under the rug for the current incarnations of the DC Universe, then that’s what it is. If it’s not (i.e. in a year to 18 months, one of the “current” incarnations of a hero shows up in this rebooted universe to kickstart things going back to “normal”), then it’s a pretty shitty thing to do to consumers, and it leaves me asking one question:
Whatever happened to the Men and Women of Tomorrow?
Where did the modern approach to comic-book storytelling fall by the wayside so badly that it was decided to reboot this whole universe and focus on “younger” versions of these iconic characters? Was it because of the constant “big” events? Was it a kneejerk reaction to the world around us? The beautiful thing about comic books is the fact that it all exists in “floating present” time if you want to- for instance, you can still use old, established events that took place the 1970s right here in the 2010s just as long as the story benefits from it.
Did modern creators lose faith in what they could accomplish with the current roster of DC Universe characters?
I am a firm believer that when it comes to fiction, there are no bad characters- there are only bad stories told about them. For every horrible character in existence, there is one person that can get a good story out of them and make that character stand out. I’ve never felt that there’s a need to throw established fictional history under a bus in order to tell a story- that story will come around with that character regardless, so just let it happen. There are ways to get to that point- and I’m not saying that Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman all need to fall into a Lazarus Pit and get younger in order to make everything that’s coming up make sense, but you get the idea… that is, if you know what Lazarus Pits are.
Needless to say, I can understand this changeover from a “relevancy” aspect, but I don’t like it. I dig DC’s focus on digital publishing, but I don’t like being told that there will be a focus on diversity- I don’t need to be told that there is a documented and shoehorned effort to be “diverse”- just let it happen naturally through the storytelling. Let the “African-American adventurer Cyborg” and the “lesbian superheroine Batwoman” and the “Hispanic hero Blue Beetle” (I’m not making that up, read the link above- this is the perception that USA Today has from this reboot) grow into these apparently spotlighted positions naturally via good storytelling rather than saying “THIS IS WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO WITH THESE CHARACTERS”. I can understand that there’s a need to relate to younger readers as well as other demographics, but as alluded to earlier, you can tell the same “grounded in the real world” stories with this current crop of characters just fine.
As someone that just wants to tell a story regardless of the medium, this sucks… but the story isn’t over.
The story never ends- it might be put on hold for a while, but the stories that we all want?
They’ll see the light of day somehow.
No matter what happens, whether we like it or not, there’s one thing to keep in mind: the versions of the characters we love will still exist after this reboot.
And they’ve all been through a lot.
We’ve all been through it before… and they always came back, right?
Here’s to the new class in the fall.
*Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is the perfect “ending” for Batman. Period.